Music discovery: Of Monsters and Men

Another Apple Music recommendation pays off big time. Of Monsters and Men is a band from Iceland that has an indie-rock, folk-pop vibe with a dash of 80’s sounds.

Their latest album “Fever Dream” is solid all the way through and the single “Alligator” is SO good.

Apple Music Link:

Spotify Link:

Apple Music Replay Site

If you are in Apple Music subscriber I recently discovered a cool feature that Shows you your most played songs of a specific year.

For me, I was surprised to see a pattern in the way I listen to songs. It seems that when I like a song I REALLY like the song, and I listen to it repeatedly for a period of time.

The album a listen to roast last year was Lo Moon by Lo Moon. It was actually released in 2018 but I only discovered it last year and I played the hell out of it. This is one of those bands that when you discover it you can’t believe they are not a global phenomenon. The music is very atmospheric and moody, I highly recommend you check it out.

Another great discovery was Patrick Droney’s EP album with only 5 songs. They are all fantastic, his style is a bit John Mayer with a bluesy-country vibe. 

Another band I really enjoyed last HAIM, The three Haim sisters have been around for sometime but I discovered them last year and loved their indie pop music. Their latest single now I’m in it is fantastic

Go create your own rewind playlist of the following link

Direct links to the bands above:

Lo Moon

Patrick Droney

HAIM (latest single)

Meditating without interruption using Siri Shortcuts

For a few years now I’ve been trying to meditate every morning as part of my daily routine. I definitely notice a difference in how my day goes if I meditate in the morning so I am now trying to stick to the habit no matter what my schedule looks like.

To meditate I use an app called Headspace, it’s a paid app with a yearly subscription. It’s not cheap and the Canadian dollar conversion doesn’t help either, but I gladly pay for it and I soften the blow by saving a couple of bucks every month so that when payment comes I’m good to go. Also, the fact that it’s not a free app motivates me to be consistent and keep using it. There is a free trial of Headspace and I highly recommend giving it a go if you are interested in meditating. They now also offer a family plan so that may be a great choice for some. The meditations are guided by the founder of the app, Andy Puddicombe, and the whole system is easy, fun and completely geared towards beginners.

So of course after a while, my geeky side started having ideas about how to make my morning meditation easier with the use of technology. A couple of times my meditation was ruined when my phone started giving me alerts because I forgot to turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature.

I turned to the internet and I found that someone had already created a super easy solution to the problem using Siri Shortcuts. Siri Shortcuts is a utility that groups together a series of actions that you can activate with a tap or a voice command. For example, you can run a shortcut that calculates the tip on a restaurant bill depending on the number of people paying, or you can ask Siri to find the closest coffee shop to your current location.

Creating a shortcut is very easy but if you’re not interested in building one yourself, you can download many that have been created by Apple or by other users. In my search for a shortcut that would avoid alerts from interrupting me during my meditation, I found one that turns on “Do Not Disturb” so it mutes all alerts and calls on your phone. This was perfect, I could run the shortcut, meditate without interruption and then it would turn my alerts back on. This was perfect, but I wanted to improve it so I started adding other commands and I came up with a better solution. These are the 3 steps in my shortcut:

  • Ask me for how long I will meditate (my meditations can be 10, 15 or 20 minutes so I can choose this here).
  • Turn on “Do Not Disturb” for the number of minutes above but add 2 more minutes in case I get distracted before I actually start meditating.
  • Open the Headspace app for me so I can start meditating.

To run my shortcut I activate Siri and say “Let’s Meditate” (my assigned voice command for this shortcut) and the 3 steps above happen automatically.
This way I meditate without distractions and when I’m finished “Do not Disturb” is automatically turned off so I know I will receive alerts and calls again. Very cool.

This shortcut can also be used to block time to read, take a nap or do any activity where you don’t want to be interrupted.

Here’s the link to download my meditation shortcut and below that are the steps it includes. You can, of course, modify anything in the Siri Shortcuts app.

Meditation Shortcut

One of the simplest but most enjoyable Rube Goldberg machines I’ve ever seen

This one is all about following the blue marble. It all happens on a tilted board so watching that marble create its own path and modify it as it travels is super satisfying to watch. I also love the way the marble is propelled upwards by magnets and other simple setups. The creator says it took about 3 months to build and 500 attempts to get it to work all the way to the end.

Solo: A Star Wars Story, 2018 – ★★★

I agree with the general consensus on Solo…it’s…ok.

Of course, it checks all the obligatory boxes that any Star Wars movie should check:

– Do we have a good or bad feeling about this? Check
– Do we see a star destroyer in an imposing shot? Check
– Is the villain a bit over the top and irrational? Check
– Is there a big creature with a big eye? Yep

There are many more examples but on the plus side, Lando is fun to watch, the cinematography has a nice moody look (dark, foggy) everything feels “dingy”. Since I had no option but to see it in 3D maybe that’s why it looked dark.

Just like in Rebel One, the robot “LS” is one of the most entertaining characters even though it’s on screen for a short time. Emilia Clarke was ok, her role didn’t stand out much so it could have been any other fine actor in the role.

The action sequences are fun, especially the train heist. Some could have been more effective if they were shorter. The movie feels 10 to 15 minutes too long.

So I enjoyed it…it’s ok.

As time goes by, I appreciate the grit, pacing and darker tone of Rebel One even more.

p.s. The cameo in the movie did not work for me at all. When you have to go research how it could make sense and see how convoluted and obscure the answer is, you’ve failed at Star Wars. It felt incredibly artificial and unnecessary.

p.p.s. If there is a Boba Fett movie in the works I hope they don’t childproof it too much or in my opinion, they might as well not make it.


Avengers: Infinity War, 2018 – ★★★½

I’m a little burnt out on Marvel movies so I went in expecting the same formula. To my surprise, the way they handled so many characters was very well done. Thanos is a very compelling villain, like many, have said, I can see some logic to his madness.

The action is Marvel’s usual, didn’t find groundbreaking sequences that stood out to me. I’m not too happy about bringing the Guardians into the Avengers movies, it feels like they’re diluting the one great group of superheroes I really enjoy watching. A lot of the fun I had came from the Guardians being on screen.

The ending….well that’s a tough one. I’m not too sure I’ll be back to the theatre for the continuation of this story. Maybe streaming will be enough. I felt a bit cheated. People say it’s like The Empire Strikes Back but, honestly, it doesn’t feel like that. It feels very unsatisfying. Am I to believe things will stay the way they are? Please, this is Marvel, how often do this kinds of “endings” go to where they pretend to go?

Overall a satisfying experience for 85% of the movie. Last 15% takes my rating down.


The Titan, 2018 – ★★

The movie has an interesting premise, humans genetically modified to live in space without suits as a way to save our species. Too bad it quickly turns to the obvious consequences of the experiments that you’ve seen in every movie of its kind. The last scenes and resolution took this to low budget storytelling territory.